In many churches I visit the children will stand up and recite Bible verses they have memorized. I’m yet to see the adults do that. Is it because they have outgrown the discipline of memorizing Bible verses? I hope not. Memorizing Bible verses is incredibly helpful in our spiritual growth. As a casual observer I think this discipline isn’t utilized nearly enough in our spiritual development. Perhaps it’s because it’s too hard, perhaps it’s because you don’t think you can. I am yet to meet someone who, having put in the effort, can’t learn verses. For me, there are two main reasons why I do it.
Firstly, I struggle to memorize a passage that I’m not living out. I know this isn’t the case for everyone but I really, really struggle to memorize what I’m not living. When I was first married it took me months to memorize James 4:1-3. Six months to learn 3 verses; 60 words took me 180 days. I was diligent with the discipline but nothing would stick. Everyday I would try but I struggled and struggled for 6 months. But at the end of 6 months I owned the arguments we had. I took ownership of my motivations in our quarrels. Those verses laid down a pattern of listening to each other that has tremendously helped in our relationship. When I get stuck on a verse I know I need to grow in that area. Memorizing Scripture helps me to see my blind spots.
The second reason is that it forces me to meditate. Memorizing Scripture is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work to memorize a verse. It takes a lot of repetition. That repetition forces my brain to think about what I’m memorizing. The act of memorizing forces me to meditate on the verses because I’m going over the verse again and again and again. My mind churns the verse over not just while I’m sitting down intentionally trying to memorize it but at other times too. It’s this meditation that leads to me applying the verse to my life, seeing the nuances of how my life is not in sync with what I’m reading.
I guess the two reasons could be summed up in one – memorizing Scripture makes me a better person. It transforms me. I change when I internalize Scripture in my mind and, through meditation, in my heart. I change. That’s my motivation.
I use an app called RememberMe. Whatever gadget you have you can download it for free here. I also have a notepad where I like to write the letter of each word as a shorthand of writing it out to see if I remember. To be honest I only use the app as a repository of the verses I’m memorizing and because it follows spaced repetition so I don’t have to worry about when I’m supposed to revise the verse. Spaced repetition just means that the verses you find easy will be revised at a later time (say in 10 days time) and a verse you are struggling with sooner (say, tomorrow). It means that you spend more time with verses you are struggling with. With that said, I am find myself using more of the features of the app that aid in memorization. There are lots of apps you can use, including the traditional pen and paper, so choose one and start memorizing.
If you are looking for some memorization techniques, here is a great site with lots of memory ideas.
If you are starting out try one verse. If you are used to memorizing single verses try a passage or chapter. Give yourself 10-15 minutes per day. It doesn’t need to be consecutive minutes. You can steal 5 minutes here or there two to three times throughout the day. The time is really not a factor – let’s be honest about that. The greatest challenge is doing it every day. The daily discipline is tough but it’s well worth it. Each day you will grow, a little bit here, a little bit there. But it all adds up. And one day, in the midst of an argument with your wife the verses will come to your mind and you will see clearly your motivation for the argument, your selfish motivation, your desire to get what you want without regard for the other, and you stop arguing, and you listen, and your wife is happy, and so are you.
Currently I’m memorizing, very slowly, Colossians 3:1-21. How about you? What are you working through? What do you find difficult about memorizing Scripture? What’s your motivation? What benefits have you gained from memorizing verses?